Friday, November 17, 2006

The Sister's Curse

My little brother is coming home from school today for Thanksgiving break...With his girlfriend! They'll both be staying with my parents for a full week.

As the protective older sister, I feel not unlike a mother whose little baby is growing up and leaving the nest. It makes me feel ancient and antique, like I've turned around and suddenly he's a man, and I'm a grandma. Something about Chase bringing a girl HOME for a WEEK makes me want to weep a little bit. He's all grown up, I want to cry, dabbing at the tears in my eyes with the embroidered handkerchief I'm holding in my wrinkly hand. My little boy is a man now. Then I'd straighten my reading glasses and adjust the chain that holds them around my neck, take a deep and ragged breath, and go back to my knitting.

But I don't carry an embroidered handkerchief, and I don't knit; I don't have wrinkly hands, and I don't wear glasses. I'm 26, and he's 20, but something about this makes me feel old. And it makes me want to take this girl into a locked room, point a sweat lamp directly at her head and ask her all sorts of intrusive questions. What are your intentions with my brother? Are you sure you feel strongly for him? Are you leading him on? You better MEAN EVERYTHING YOU SAY TO HIM, AND STICK BY IT NO MATTER WHAT OR I WILL OWN YOU. Understand? I want to employ the tactics my dad threatened me with when I first started dating: Cleaning guns at the kitchen table when she walks in. I want to eye her suspiciously, make her nervous...

But I won't. Obviously. For a number of reasons: One, it's not my place. Two, I'm just not that kind of person. And three, Chase really cares for her. And he must care for her for a reason. If he likes her, she must be pretty incredible.

And then there's the other thing: No matter how shitty my boyfriends in the past were, Chase was always nice. He may be my "little brother" by timeline, but not physically. Physically, he's much bigger than me, and he could very easily play the role of Asshole Big Brother if need be. And he never did. Not because he didn't care, but because I cared about the guy, and that was enough for Chase. So I'm going to try to approach it that way this time.

I haven't always thought of it this way. In fact, I'm sort of notorious for being the mean older sister when it comes to girlfriends. Not because I'm mean just for the sake of being mean, but because in Chase's younger years, I was just a better judge of character than he was. Chase was sweet and unquestionably trusting, where I could sense evil immediately. And one particular girl he brought around was just that. So from the instant I met her and heard her referring to my mom and dad as "Mom" and "Dad," I'd had enough. I was short with her, I couldn't look at her, and I wanted nothing to do with her. I tried to be nice, but I insisted, to Chase and my whole family (who all loved her), that something was wrong. With her. That she wasn't as sweet as she made herself out to be. I didn't like that she was intruding on my territory. That she was trying to wedge herself into my incredible family because she got dealt a shitty one. I thought she was too full of sacchrine, her act was too syrupy to swallow. And you know what? A couple of months later, the truth was revealed. And who was right? ME. That's who. I saw through her artificial affection and her too-sweet demeanor to the slimy opportunist that was circling Chase's feet.

But, because I was "mean" to her, I've developed a slight reputation in my family of being a VERY overprotective big sister. My little brother isn't nervous about bringing girls home to meet my parents, he's nervous about bringing them to meet me. "Promise me you'll be nice," Chase said when he gently broke the news that his girlfriend would be sharing our time together this Thanksgiving.

"I am nice," I maintained. "As long as I think she's good to you."

"She is," he said. I could picture him closing his eyes and nodding, like a frustrated parent tired of explaining things to his child.

"I promise." I heard his exhale of relief through the phone. "BUT!" I amended, "If I sense something off, I'm going to tell you. And then I'll be civil, but I won't be awesome. Okay?"

I'm approaching this like Chase and his girlfriend are 14. They're both in their twenties. Technically, they're my peers. Yet I'm assuming the role of Adult to their assigned role of Child in my mind.

It's so silly. Because I know that Chase is grown. I know he's capable of judging good from bad. And I even know that this girl is really nice, and treats him really well. But I'm constantly on the lookout for people's ulterior motives when it comes to him, as though Chase The Poor College Student has anything worth stealing. It's just that he's such a good man, such a kind, giving and caring person, I'm terrified that people will take advantage of that soft, perfect part of him. I love him so much, I want to protect him. Even if he's perfectly capable of protecting himself. Even if he doesn't want me to. Even if it's silly and ridiculous and antiquated and stupid. I love him. And I'm his big sister. I always will be.

Protecting him, in whatever small way I can, is what I'll be doing for the rest of my life.


portuguesa nova said...

It's a terrible dilemma...When you love someone that much, it should follow that you love everyone they love, and who loves them back. But it doesn't always work that way.

I feel the same way both about the douchebags my sister tends to date and that same feeling now even extends to my baby's favorite teddy bear.

Anonymous said...

Poor Chase ;) I wonder how he's prepped her for meeting you?

I hated a guy my sister lived with and couldn't help showing it, but her friends all thought he was a dropkick too so, like you, I was right! It was the single worst thing to affect me and my sister's relationship. She says there were things she needed to learn from that relationship and I've been in bad relationships too but she never got to protect me from those cos she's the little sister!

I hope the girlfriend really is awesome!

Anonymous said...

Wish I had a sister like you. :-)

anno said...

Gosh, my brother will never let me forget the fact that one time when I was supposed to be babysitting him, he & his friends were pretending to be triathletes in the back yard, he broke his wrist, and when he came inside to tell me about it, I just looked at his wrist & yawned, "yeah, well, I'm reading a really good book, and it doesn't look so bad to me. It's probably just a sprain." Then half an hour later when he showed it to me again, it was swollen to twice its size and purple and green. Only then did I take him to emergency.

It's more than 30 years later, and he STILL tells that story.

I love my sister-in-law, though.

God's gift to women (with really low standards) said...

One Thanksgiving my sister brought home the hugest douchebag known to man. We all just thought she was going through her "I'm gonna date a douchebag to piss my family off" stage, but yeah...they've been married for 14 years now. Everybody hates him. Not just my family. I mean EVERYBODY. He's ruined my family's relationship with my sister. Nobody wants to visit her and nobody really wants them to visit either because of him. So if your brother's girlfriend sucks, kick her ass. He'll thank you later.

Kristi said...

I have a baby brother.
He's only 3 yrs younger,but he is my baby brother.
My sister is the youngest, 4 yrs younger than him even.
Yet, we are both incredibly protective over bobo.
He got married last summer to a girl he's been with since Charlotte was a year old.
But in the beginning....we basically toldherthat if she hurt our brother for any reason that was stupid, she'd live to regret it.
Its all bee good.
they celebrated the birth of their first child last month!
she is a fabulous sister in law! And a great Auntie to the Queen.
Being an over protective sibling ALWAYS has its place.
Being 20 doens't make him an expert on human nature.
don't forget he is a young man. they generally think with their penis first.
I'm sure it will be Great!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Bar said...

My sis brought home some johnny to eat dinner with us. I think it should be at least a fifth or sixth meeting, I mean long, get-to-know-you kind of meeting before any one gets to eat at my families dinner table, let alone thanksgiving. Be the cold bitch sister, do it, it's a right of passage uh?